An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act and the Salaries Act

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Sponsor

Don Boudria  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Excise Act, 2001Government Orders

April 30th, 2002 / 10:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I wish to congratulate the hon. member for Drummond on her fine and interesting speech.

Since the beginning of the 1960s, there has been no substantive reform of the Canadian tax system. Does the hon. member think that, instead of a piecemeal approach to fiscal issues like we had with Bill C-28 and now with Bill C-47, it would be important to have substantial changes to the Canadian tax system?

Points of OrderOral Question Period

September 19th, 2001 / 3:35 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the issue before us today is a serious one for the Speaker to consider. What we are talking about today is not whether a political party has a right to change names. Obviously, the party across did at some point in the past, but that is not before us today. To claim that PC/DRC is similar to changing the name of another party, I do not think is factually accurate. It is not the same and I will get back to that later.

There has been some attempt to make a parallel between this and the issue of the role of the Speaker regarding the Créditistes in the 1960s. That also is very different. The situation that we had at the time, if my memory serves me correct, was that there was only enough members to make one party and a large number of the members of that party had defected to create the new political party. The issue before the House then was which one of the two groups was the real party. The Speaker at the time referred it to a committee where eventually it was decided that the Ralliement des créditiste would maintain its status because it met the criteria.

That was the issue then. Again, I do not think that is the same as what we have in front of us today. It is of little consequence to me, as a partisan, what goes on in this regard because it does not change the status of the government in any way. However, it goes beyond that.

The Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in the House referred to Short money and the role in the British House. The parallel of my position as leader of the government in the House is referred to in the British House as leader of the House. In a way, without being presumptuous, I consider my role to be analogous to that in the sense that if colleagues across the way ask me why the government or a minister has failed to respond to a question or anything like that I take it upon myself to ensure that I can do what I can because I feel that I have that responsibility to members individually and collectively in the mandate that has been given to me. It is in that regard that I make the comments that are before us today, not for any particular advantage because obviously there is not one either way.

The debate before the House today concerns whether a significant material change in membership affects the benefits that members would have. In other words, if a political party across lost a grand sum of members and that sum was added to another political party, there could be a debate. I do not know what the outcome would be, it is not before us, but there could be a debate as to whether or not that changes the resources between one political party and another one. Again, that is not the issue that is before us at the present time. It goes beyond that. This is also not a case of whether or not there is or has been a coalition government in this country. There has been. We know that. It has been referred to in previous contributions.

The issue before us is whether or not a political party and some independent members can be collectively identified as an opposition coalition, not an opposition coalition party. If that was the name of their party--I do not happen to think it would be a particularly attractive name but that is a personal view--anyone could use whatever name they think is attractive to the electors to who they are appealing. That is certainly none of my business but it is something that members might want to consider at another time.

The issue before us in whether or not independents can be grouped with a political party in order for the sum of the two to change the status of other parties in the House, because that is the effect. That is really the issue before us. This is my interpretation of it and I would ask the Speaker to consider it.

Mr. Speaker, the standing orders that we have at the present time, along with the board bylaws, Beauchesne's and Marleau and Montpetit can perhaps guide us and indicate what structure in the House has official recognition.

Standing Order No. 5 states:

No Minister of the Crown, nor party leader, shall be eligible for the election to the Office of Speaker.

The office of Speaker is the highest office in this room. Does that mean a leader of a coalition could be a candidate for Speaker? I do not know, but we must realize the implication it would have were we to make a decision in the House.

Does it mean that an officer of the House who is not a member of a party could be eligible for some of these offices? Again there are repercussions to consider.

I will draw Beauchesne's to the attention of the House. Beauchesne's sixth edition refers to the role of party whips. This is particularly important today because one of the debates before us is whether someone who is not a member of a political party can be a whip for an entity, whether we call that entity a party or something else.

Beauchesne's sixth edition, citation 201(1) states:

Each party has as one of its supporters a Member known as the Chief Whip.

It does not say each coalition or anything else. It says each party. It makes no reference to anything that is not a party.

Citation 201(2) states:

The duties of the Whips are to keep their Members supplied with information concerning the business of the House--

The citation describes the role of party whips, not other individuals.

I will also draw to the attention of the Speaker references from Marleau and Montpetit which I believe are helpful. Of course I will recognize and respect how the Speaker adjudicates in the matter. However the Speaker will know of the reference to the Parliament of Canada Act on page 30 of Marleau and Montpetit. It refers to financial benefits, which is presumably an issue of interest here today. It states:

With regard to financial benefits, the Parliament of Canada Act provides additional allowances to the Leader, the Whip and the House Leader of a party that has a recognized membership--

On page 31 it goes on to talk about financial support to the caucus research units of recognized parties. It further states:

However, in recent practice, a procedural interpretation of the definition “recognized party” has come to mean any party with 12 or more Members in the House.

Once again the reference is to parties.

On the conduct of question period, page 423 of Marleau and Montpetit refers to:

Members of a political party not officially recognized in the House--

It describes what these members would be if they belonged to something other than an officially recognized political party.

It is my interpretation that if there was a definition of a group of people who are something other than a political party one would find it on page 423 of Marleau and Montpetit. It is not there. Page 492 of Marleau and Montpetit states the following:

The Whips of the other parties and Members without party affiliation usually rise to indicate their agreement.

That means of course that the whips of the parties speak for the group and those who are not members of the party must make their identification individually because they are not members of the party. It states on the same page:

--Members without party affiliation indicate how they wish to be recorded.

This is in the case of recorded divisions. Again there is no mechanism for someone to speak on behalf of those who are not members of a recognized political party. That is made quite clear here.

On the pairing of members it is very interesting. There is a well established procedure of the clerk having on his table a book describing the duty of the whips of political parties with regard to pairing.

The reference to party whips is at the bottom of page 492. It says whips can pair for their members. However there is no provision that says a whip can speak in this form for someone who is not a member of their party, coalition or other group by which they wish to be recognized collectively. It refers only to parties. Anything else is deemed not to fit the bill.

I will draw to the attention of the House Bill C-28 which we recently passed in the House of Commons. It is a bill members will recognize because it had to do with our salaries as MPs and senators. Page 4 of the bill refers to party leaders with respect to salaries. It refers to the:

--leader of a party that has a recognized membership of twelve or more--

Again the reference is uniquely to a political party and no other structure.

I drew to the House's attention references to Marleau and Montpetit. The only item that remains, at least in my contribution, is the issue of the bylaws of the Board of Internal Economy. The Board of Internal Economy is free to change its bylaws just as the House is free to change its laws. However until it has done so it is bound to interpret the laws under which we currently operate and nothing else.

Bylaw 302 defines a party as one which has been recognized by the House and has a membership of 12 or more persons elected to the House. Bylaw 302(6) refers to House officers of a recognized party and describes some of their functions and so on. Again the reference is to a political party.

In conclusion, it is not for me to say whether independent members should belong to one political party versus another in the House. That is none of my business. We all recognize that. It is a decision which members will make in their consciences and which we will respect.

In a partisan way I could say it would be wrong either way because I do not agree with it politically. However that is immaterial for the purpose of what we have here. If members decide to join another party and indicate they have done so, I for one would accept it, as I am sure would all my colleagues. What other choice would we have? It would not be our business beyond that.

However that has not even been advocated or brought to the attention of the Speaker. No one today so far has suggested or asked that independent members be recognized as members of their party. Unless that is sought, asked for or presented, it is difficult for the Speaker and/or the House to claim the proposition was brought forward because it was not.

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you consider these arguments along with several others you have heard. We will fully respect what you have to say in this regard.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

September 18th, 2001 / 3 p.m.
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The Speaker

Order, please. I would now like to deal with the point of order raised on June 12, 2001, by the hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough relating to the use of the provisions of Standing Order 56.1. The hon. member stated in his argument that an abuse of process had occurred which was “tantamount to a breach of the rules and the intention and interpretation thereof” when, earlier that day, the government used Standing Order 56.1 to move a motion to which unanimous consent had been previously denied. The motion in question concerned the disposition of business for the final two sitting days prior to the summer adjournment, including the voting method to be followed on the last supply day of the period ending June 23, 2001.

I would like to thank the hon. the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville, the hon. member for Winnipeg—Transcona and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for their contributions on this matter.

At that time I ruled that the terms of the motion would stand, having been adopted by the House some eight hours before the hon. member raised his point of order. However, I also indicated my intention to return to the House in the fall with a statement on the use of Standing Order 56.1 and I am now ready to address the House on this matter. House of Commons Procedure and Practice , at page 571, describes Standing Order 56. 1 as follows:

If, at any time during a sitting of the House, unanimous consent is denied for the presentation of a “routine motion”, a minister may request during Routine Proceedings that the Speaker put the motion. For that purpose, a “routine motion” refers to motions which may be required for the observance of the proprieties of the House, the maintenance of its authority, the management of its business, the arrangement of its proceedings, the establishment of the powers of its committees, the correctness of its records or the fixing of its sitting days or the times of its meeting or adjournment. The motion, which is neither debatable nor amendable, is immediately put to the House by the Speaker. If 25 Members or more oppose the motion, it is deemed withdrawn; otherwise, it is adopted.

Standing Order 56.1 was adopted by the House in April 1991. At the time of its adoption concerns were raised about the implications of a rule that provides a mechanism for overriding the very unanimity of the unanimous consent mechanism that the House often uses to expedite its business. Speaker Fraser ruled on April 9, 1991, at page 19236 of the Debates :

However, this “over-ride” provision can operate, as the Chair understands it, only with respect to a certain very limited range of motions offered at a specific time in our daily agenda by a minister of the Crown...Based on the fact that we have similar procedures existing with respect to other types of motions and given the very limited application of the new proposal, the Chair cannot accede to the request...that paragraph 20 of the motion respecting the Standing Order amendments be ruled out of order.

It should be emphasized that at the time of its adoption it was envisioned that the standing order would be used for only so-called routine motions as defined in Standing Order 56.1(1)( b ).

Now let us examine how the rule has been used since its adoption 10 years ago. The government sought to use Standing Order 56.1 in 17 cases and failed in two instances.

Between 1991 and 1995 it was used six times to authorize committee travel. This falls squarely within the terms of the standing order. From 1995 to 1997 it was used on the following four occasions to arrange the sittings of the House: in March 1995 and April 1997, to suspend the sitting of the House for the sole purpose of a royal assent ceremony; in March 1995, to enable the House to sit over the weekend to consider government orders Bill C-77, an act to provide for the maintenance of railway operations and subsidiary services, a bill already under time allocation; and in June 1995, to extend the sitting to consider government business beyond the extension already provided for under Standing Order 27(1).

Here again, these four examples illustrate the intended use of Standing Order 56.1 for routine purposes, that is, to enable the House to fix the times of its meetings or adjournments and to arrange its proceedings.

From 1997 there are signs of a disturbing trend in which Standing Order 56.1 was used, or attempted to be used, for the adoption of motions less readily identified or defined as routine. Let us review specific examples of this trend.

On December 1, 1997 the standing order was used for the first time to dispose of back to work legislation at all stages, Bill C-24, an act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services. In March 1999 the government attempted to use Standing Order 56.1 for back to work legislation on Bill C-76, an act to provide for the resumption and continuation of government services. This attempt failed, as did a second attempt three days later. Eventually the legislation was dealt with under a special order after the government moved the same motion which it had placed on the order paper under government orders.

In June 1998, the government attempted to use Standing Order 56.1 to rescind a decision previously taken by the House concerning Standing Orders 57 and 78(3). The undertaking failed and members raised objections to this attempted use of the standing order. They argued that rescinding a unanimous decision of the House was not a routine motion and, as such, should not be permitted under this standing order. The Speaker allowed it, although he expressed misgivings, and he urged the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to examine the appropriate use of Standing Order 56.1.

Far less problematic are the two occasions where Standing Order 56.1 was used to enable the House to schedule take note debates, in both cases providing for the House to sit beyond its normal hours: in February 1998 to debate Canada's participation in a possible military action in the Middle East, the gulf war; and in April 1999 to consider the situation in Kosovo. So long as we continue to respect the distinction between emergency debates under Standing Order 52 and take note debates, using Standing Order 56.1 for scheduling purposes does not appear to violate the spirit of the standing orders.

The government again used Standing Order 56.1 in June 2001 to dispose of all stages of Bill C-28, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act and the Salaries Act.

Finally, on June 12, 2001, the government, under Standing Order 56.1, moved a motion to dispose of business over the following two sitting days. In this instance the motion provided for the disposition of third reading of Bill C-11, an act respecting immigration to Canada and the granting of refugee protection to persons who are displaced, persecuted or in danger, and Bill C-24, an act to amend the criminal code (organized crime and law enforcement) and to make consequential amendments to other acts, and to dispose of Government Business No. 7, the summer adjournment motion.

In addition the motion provided that once a recorded division had been taken on the main estimates, all subsequent motions to concur in any vote or votes on the main estimates shall be deemed moved and seconded and the question deemed put and agreed to on division. The effect of this was that there was a single recorded division on the first of 190 opposed items standing on the order paper and the remainder were deemed agreed to on division.

At this point I would like to draw to members' attention the following reference at pages 571-2 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice :

On April 9, 1991, Speaker Fraser, while pointing out that the range of motions to which the proposed procedure would apply was very limited, also suggested that the new Standing Order was to be understood as another procedurally acceptable mechanism for limiting debate: "There are certain similarities also between the proposal and existing Standing Order 78 respecting time allocation in that both use a ladder-like type of approach depending upon the extent of agreement forthcoming to securing the right to propose the motion".

I would advise hon. members to be very cautious in their reading of this passage. In his ruling, Speaker Fraser drew a parallel between Standing Order 56.1, which requires a prior attempt to gain unanimous consent, and Standing Order 78, the time allocation rule, which requires notice or prior consultation. It seems doubtful to me, having read the ruling in its entirety, that Speaker Fraser really meant to suggest that Standing Order 56.1 was to be understood as another procedurally acceptable mechanism for limiting debate.

The expanded use of Standing Order 56.1 since 1997 causes the Chair serious concern. The government is provided with a range of options under Standing Orders 57 and 78 for the purpose of limiting debate. Standing Order 56.1 should be used for motions of a routine nature, such as arranging the business of the House. It was not intended to be used for the disposition of a bill at various stages, certainly not for bills that fall outside the range of those already contemplated in the standing order when “urgent or extraordinary occasions” arise. Standing Order 71 provides in such cases that a bill may be dealt with at more than one stage in a single day.

Likewise, a motion seeking to reverse a unanimous decision of the House is a serious undertaking and should in no way be viewed as a routine motion. It was never envisaged that Standing Order 56.1 would be used to override decisions that the House had taken by unanimous consent.

In the most recent use of Standing Order 56.1, a motion was adopted which provided for a recorded division on the first opposed item in the main estimates. However, all subsequent opposed items were then deemed moved and carried. The effect of the motion adopted pursuant to Standing Order 56.1 was to predetermine the results of all the votes following the first recorded division. It is clear to the Chair that this application of the standing order goes well beyond the original intent, that is, for the presentation of routine motions as defined in Standing Order 56.1.(1)( b ).

The standing order has never been used as a substitute for decisions which the House ought itself to make on substantive matters. In addition, if the House from time to time should agree by way of proceeding by unanimous consent as, for example, on the application of votes, one cannot assume that such agreements would automatically fall into the category of routine matters as defined in Standing Order 56.1.

As I previously indicated, I allowed the motion adopted on June 12, 2001, to go ahead because there were no objections raised at the time it was moved. By the time hon. members expressed concern to the Chair some eight hours later, the Chair saw no alternative but to proceed with the terms of the motion. However, to speak frankly, had the objection been raised in good time, I would have been inclined to rule the motion out of order. This situation serves again to remind members of the importance of raising matters of a procedural nature in a timely fashion.

In the three years since my predecessor urged the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to examine the appropriate use of Standing Order 56.1, we have seen further evidence of a trend away from the original intent of this rule. This would seem all the more reason for the committee to consider the standing order at the earliest opportunity.

In the meantime, based on close examination of past precedents and the most recent use of Standing Order 56.1 as a tool to bypass the decision making functions of the House, I must advise the House that the motion adopted on June 12, 2001, will not be regarded as a precedent. I would urge all hon. members to be vigilant about the use of this mechanism for the Chair certainly intends to be watchful.

I want to thank all hon. members who intervened to raise this point before the House at this time.

Message From The SenateThe Royal Assent

June 14th, 2001 / 5 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill C-12, an act to amend the Judges Act and to amend another act in consequence—Chapter No. 7.

Bill S-24, an act to implement an agreement between the Mohawks of Kanesatake and Her Majesty in right of Canada respecting governance of certain lands by the Mohawks of Kanesatake and to amend an act in consequence—Chapter No. 8.

Bill C-8, an act to establish the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and to amend certain acts in relation to financial institutions—Chapter No. 9.

Bill S-17, an act to amend the Patent Act—Chapter No. 10.

Bill C-17, an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997 and the Financial Administration Act—Chapter No. 11.

Bill S-16, an act to amend the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act—Chapter No. 12.

Bill S-3, an act to amend the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987 and to make consequential amendments to other acts—Chapter No. 13.

Bill S-11, an act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Canada Cooperatives Act and to amend other acts in consequence—Chapter No. 14.

Bill C-13, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act—Chapter No. 15.

Bill C-26, an act to amend the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff, the Excise Act, the Excise Tax Act and the Income Tax Act in respect of tobacco—Chapter No. 16.

Bill C-22, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Income Tax Application Rules, certain acts related to the Income Tax Act, the Canada Pension Plan, the Customs Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act and another act related to the Excise Tax Act—Chapter No. 17.

Bill C-3, an act to amend the Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and Divestiture Act and the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act—Chapter No. 18.

Bill C-18, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act—Chapter No. 19.

Bill C-28, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act and the Salaries Act—Chapter No. 20.

Bill C-9, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act—Chapter No. 21.

Bill C-25, an act to amend the Farm Credit Corporation Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts—Chapter No. 22.

Bill C-4, an act to establish a foundation to fund sustainable development technology—Chapter No. 23.

Bill C-29, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2002—Chapter No. 24.

Bill S-25, an act to amend the Act of Incorporation of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada.

Bill S-27, an act to authorize The Imperial Life Assurance Company of Canada to apply to be continued as a company under the laws of the Province of Quebec.

Bill S-28, an act to authorize Certas Direct Insurance Company to apply to be continued as a company under the laws of the Province of Quebec.

Pursuant to order made on Wednesday, June 13, the House stands adjourned until Monday, September 17, at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Orders 28 and 24.

(The House adjourned at 5.26 p.m.)

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2001 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thought it a good idea to speak today on a topic that is receiving a lot of press and on which all Canadians, almost without exception, have an opinion.

I will begin by making it clear that I intend to support this bill. I supported it at second reading and it is my firm intention to support it at third reading a bit later on today.

At the appropriate time, when there are forms to fill in, I intend to opt in to the new pay plan set out in Bill C-28. I want this to be perfectly clear.

I wish to point out that some 30 people have contacted me by telephone or in writing at my office this week. A few of them were clearly in favour of the bill but most were against it. Among the latter, reaction was divided.

Almost half of those against it oppose it for procedural reasons such as retroactivity or application. They would like to see it apply to the 38th parliament, not the 37th. They are also unhappy at how quickly Bill C-28 is being passed or how soon the increase will take effect. Some of them would like it to be phased in over two, three or even four years. The rest are simply against it.

Very few mentioned the opting in clause. This clause has led to another kind of discussion in the debate. Yesterday we learned that this clause would be permanent. I hope that, indeed, during the 38th parliament, if members get re-elected who had chosen not to adhere to the plan, this situation can be corrected to make things fair. I am also taking a stand on this issue.

I would like to elaborate on the arguments that we heard in support of the bill. We heard several. Comparisons were made with the business world, among others.

Two weeks ago, the Ottawa Business Journal had two full pages listing the salaries of the heads of public corporations in the region. Their salaries ranged from $100,000 to $300,000. Some people earn several millions per year. I do not think it is appropriate to make this comparison.

The shareholders of a publicly traded company make a choice. They choose to join in and to buy shares, to become shareholders. By contrast, taxpayers, who will pay our salaries, do not make a choice. It is something that is imposed on them.

Our salaries were also compared to those of athletes. It was even said that the Prime Minister is paid less than the minimum wages paid in the National Hockey League. We were told that the average salary in several professional leagues is one million dollars.

I do not think the comparison is appropriate because the salaries paid to these players are generated through revenues that the public is not required to contribute to.

Some also mentioned unions. In yesterday evening's news on the CBC, Mr. Lumley said that there are 200 union leaders in Ontario who are paid over $100,000. Again, this is not a perfectly appropriate comparison, but it is somewhat more, because the Rand formula requires all members of a union to pay union dues, but it is not a good example.

Then arguments such as “We work impossible hours” were used. It is true our hours are long. A typical day for a member may be 12 or 14 hours, easily, five, six and sometimes seven days a week. However, with all the respect due my colleagues, I do not believe this justifies what Bill C-28 is proposing. My father-in-law was a taxi driver and he worked 12 hours a day regularly. He worked as long as I do, so this is not an issue of hours of work. I have a bit of a hard time with this argument.

I would like people to not take the issue of hours of work into account because in my opinion it is not a good reason for voting in favour of the bill, even though we do work long hours. We all wanted this job, so we must not complain.

Others cite pressure. It is true that there is pressure. Often we are bombarded with requests of all sorts: requests for help or ways to find funding for a given project. This sort of pressure is perhaps unique but in our society others who are policemen, nurses, teachers or air traffic controllers are also subject to pressure unique to them but real nevertheless. Once again this argument does not hold as justification for supporting this bill.

Where I am coming from instead is what we do as legislators. The three branches of government, the judicial, the executive and the legislative, are what I believe we should be using as a comparison basis. It seems quite clear that over the last 30 years we have systematically undervalued the role of the legislator in our society and in the Government of Canada.

I believe that if one were to stop and think about that, we would see not only rationale but some encouragement to do what is being asked of us to do by voting for Bill C-28, which is to establish a basis of equilibrium between the judiciary, the legislative and the executive. Not to do that is to undermine the importance of the legislators of this House and of the other House in the life of our country and how we govern ourselves.

Some numbers have been given that show in the sixties the role of the MP was valued slightly more than judges. However over the last 35 years it has been the opposite, and the role of the MP vis-à-vis a comparison to the judicial side has been much less. It has been the same with the executive. We heard numbers that show what the top executives are paid. I am talking about a public executive, not someone in the private sector, whether judicial, legislative or executive who is funded by the same taxpayer. That range is to $375,000.

If we look at what the legislators were valued at, then we see a huge discrepancy. I think that is the genesis of some of the discredit that seems to be attributed to members of parliament, legislators and senators. It behooves us to turn that around because the legislative function in a government is essential. It is a basis of democracy. We have the role of legislators, and we also have the surveillance role.

The importance of the legislative and monitoring roles of this House and its members cannot be neglected. We have officers of the House, such as the Auditor General of Canada, the Commissioner of Official Languages, the Information Commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner, who report to the House. Everything turns upon the House and the legislative process, which naturally are responsible for setting the policies of the nation, the country, through the process of drafting and passing bills, but also through monitoring.

I believe it was vital for a start to be made at striking a balance between the value assigned to the judiciary, the legislative and the executive branches. There is nothing personal involved here. The voters will decide who is sent here or not in each riding.

I believe that we, as parliamentarians, have a responsibility to attribute to the legislative branch a value comparable to that attributed to the judiciary and the executive branch. The legislative function of this chamber and the other is essential to the process of government, the democracy of this country. It would be regrettable if this trend were allowed to continue.

We have the opportunity to reverse it by supporting this bill. I would invite all my colleagues to do so, so that we may recognize and enhance the value and importance of the legislative process and those involved in that process.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2001 / 4:50 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would love to say it is a pleasure to rise today to address the bill, but it is not a pleasure because it is a very difficult issue for MPs.

I rise today to speak to Bill C-28, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act and the Salaries Act. I want to address the general issue of the worth and value of MPs. I recognize that this issue is a controversial one. It is truly a political hot potato. That is why I want to address it as reasonably and as sensitively as I can.

I thank the commissioners for their report. I think they did a good job. They held as many hearings as possible with Canadians. They tried to make their report as fair as possible. I thank Ed Lumley, Jake Epp and Huguette Labelle for their service and for their good recommendations.

The first good recommendation they made was to make our salary completely transparent by rolling the tax free expense allowance into a salary and thus calling it what it is. Basically it has become a de facto salary over time. It also makes MPs and lawmakers subject to the same tax laws as Canadians, a fundamental principle that should be followed in every democracy.

They recommended that the pension contribution rates be lowered to 2.5%. This was a step in the right direction because it would move us closer to private sector standards. They also recommended a 20% pay raise, obviously the most controversial issue in the House.

This raises the question of what MPs are worth. I welcome this discussion as should all members in the House. However the question is very difficult because of the uniqueness of our role. What is an MP worth? Should we in the House be deciding what we are worth?

I will be the first to recognize that MPs from all parties do work hard and deserve fair compensation. Many who serve on committees do their homework. They come prepared and they do background research. They also serve their constituents well and are motivated by genuine interest. However that is not the point because many Canadians work hard. Many Canadians can point to putting in long hours, spending time away from their families, et cetera.

It is the responsibility of the position that basically determines what an MP is worth and the salary should be based on this. It should not be MPs in this House who determine what their salaries should be.

The other aspect is the opt in provision, which was not included in the report but which is included in the bill. This to me is not good public policy and not good lawmaking. It puts lawmakers in such a box that people who disagree with the process cannot stand up and voice their concern and displeasure with the process. They are forced to make a choice as to whether they want to opt in or not. We are boxed in. It separates us into two categories and that is just not fair.

We all vote on bills in this House that we disagree with, for example, the gun registry bill and tax cuts, but the fact is that when the majority votes yea, both in this House and in the other chamber, the bill becomes law and we are all subject to the same law. That is the way bills should be made and passed.

My real worry with the bill is the perception by Canadians of politicians and the institutions. It is fair to say, and this is truly sad, that Canadians as a whole, certainly since the 1950s, have had a declining respect for politicians and parliamentary institutions. I am not gladdened by this at all. We should all be sad and think about what we can do to change this.

What can we do to change that? We should not implement a process such as this to implement pay increases for ourselves. My main concern with this whole issue is the process. We took a report that was tabled just recently, introduced a bill shortly thereafter, debated the bill for less than three days and will soon be voting on it and passing it into law. Most Canadians must be wondering how we can possibly do this.

In my view, even with respect to our party policy, why not let the report come out in the spring, let the commissioners go across the country during the summer to explain what MPs do and the value of their work, introduce a bill in normal time in the fall, have a full House debate on that bill and then implement it if it is fair? That seems to me to be the more reasonable and rational way to do this, not to pass it just before the summer recess.

The optics of this are terrible. Most Canadians are upset about the fact that we are voting on our own pay raise just before the summer recess. We are adjourning after a very controversial period because of a lot of statements made by certain MPs from all sides of the House. I am not trying to highlight that because it is unfortunate. It is unfortunate that we are constantly highlighting MPs who make an offhand remark or an off colour remark. We do not recognize the value of MPs from all parties who do work hard. We should have used the opportunity to highlight those things but we did not.

One other aspect that I am really displeased with is the fact that the bill took the commission's report and changed it.

I recently met the former premier of Alberta, Peter Lougheed. I asked him how he dealt with this issue in Alberta. He said that he had set up a commission telling the people beforehand that whatever they recommended would be implemented, that the lawmakers would not have a chance to amend it, and that it would simply be implemented as is.

Bill C-28 would change the accrual rate for pensions from 2.5% to 3%. It would change the retroactive pay from April 1 to January 1. It would implement a 20% pay raise and has an opt in provision that was not in the report at all, which to me is the true travesty of the bill.

How do we deal with MP salaries? How should we deal with them?

First, similar to what former Premier Lougheed recommended to me, we should do what the Canadian Alliance suggests which is parliamentary compensation should be recommended by an independent commission according to private sector standards. Second, the decision of parliament would be implemented after a subsequent election. That would take the conflict of interest completely out of the issue and mean that I, as a parliamentarian, would not have to sit here and wonder whether I could stand up and vote against the bill or whether I could opt in or not opt in, and go through these decisions.

I knew before I ran what the compensation for an MP would be. Why should I be voting on a pay raise six months after being elected for the first time?

We should really link the whole issue to trying to raise the esteem of parliament and parliamentarians in the minds of Canadians. We could have used this as an opportunity to do so, but sadly I do not think we have. I know when I go back, I am going to see more disappointment on the faces of Canadians. It will not increase the esteem of Canadians for their parliamentary institutions and that is a true tragedy of the bill.

The last thing I want to recommend, in terms of any pay raises for ourselves, is that we should always tie it to recognizing our worth as MPs, but moreover tie it to reforming parliament itself so that we truly empower MPs and send a signal to Canadians that their MPs are working very much on their behalf, before any pay increases are implemented.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2001 / 4:40 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are four points to this bill. In the course of debate a couple of others have been brought in.

I would like to deal with those others first, one of those being the opt in clause. In my opinion the opt in clause is really not part of the bill. It has nothing to do with the legislation, the salary, the pension, the transparency or anything else. It is nothing more than the pure gamesmanship that is displayed in the House from time to time, not only by the government but by many people in the House. It should basically be discarded as if it were not there. The second thing I have a problem with is not the legislation itself, but rather the speed with which the legislation was brought in.

I have difficulty with one the four parts of the bill that deals with pensions. I have been fighting for years for pension reform. I attempted to bring in a private member's bill for genuine consideration by all members. I also attempted to bring in an amendment, but because of the short timeline and its complexity it was impossible to put into an acceptable form. Consequently my amendment, as drafted with the help of legislative counsel, was ruled out of order. Even if it had been in order, because of the speed the bill went through committee of the whole consideration we would not have reached my amendment in any case.

The bill has four distinctive parts and that is what we need to look at. The first one deals with transparency, the elimination of the non-taxable portion of an MP's pay. That is something we have been fighting for years.

After the 1997 election the government virtually ignored the recommendations of the Blais commission. It is nice to see this time, with a couple of exceptions or modifications, it is following what the report said. It would have been better had it done that in 1997.

The bill is to eliminate the non-taxable amount and gross it up so that we would end up with what is supposed to be the same pay. I will get to that point in a moment because it is not.

It also provides outside linkage for increases in the future so that MPs never again get into what is tantamount to a conflict of interest in trying to deal with their own remuneration, pensions and other benefits inside the House. It takes it out of our hands and hopefully it will remain out of our hands.

We could argue all day on what it should have been linked to, whether it should have been linked to judges as it was or whether it should have been linked to the federal service at large. That is an amendment I certainly would have supported. At least it was not linked to something that has no relevance to the House whatsoever, such as airline pilots, doctors or something of that nature, because it happened to suit somebody's notion of how to get a raise.

Then we get to the raise itself. Here is an area where no one was doing their homework. According to the Debates and the newspapers we are talking about a 20% increase. That is based on the assumption that $109,500 is the direct grossed up equivalent of what we were getting before the bill comes into effect. That is not the case.

I do not know who came up with that figure or how they arrived at it, but it does not take a whole lot of homework to check it out. I phoned a tax accountant in my province of British Columbia who went through the tax tables and worked it out. The balanced amount is not $109,500 but $115,100. That means that the raise is not 20% but about 14%.

It will vary a little bit from province to province. The raise is a bit more in Alberta, a bit less in Saskatchewan, and in Quebec taxes are higher still so the raise is even less than 14%.

During the parts of the debate that I heard no one seemed to raise a fact that appeared in one of the papers I was reading today which said that we have had a 2% raise every year for the past many years. The truth of the matter is that over the past 10 years we have had an aggregate total of a 6% increase, which is far behind any other sector including the public sector.

I do not believe personally that the pay raise is out line. Backdating it to January is a little inflammatory, kind of like when the postal strike was settled by legislating a settlement that was less than the employer had offered. It was one of those unnecessary movements on the part of the government that only caused to inflame feelings unnecessarily.

That brings me to the fourth and the only part of the bill to which I object dealing with the pension. The pension amount would simply go up because the pay goes up. The intent of the recommendations made by the commission was that it should go up exactly in line with the amount we were already getting. Other than the raise there would be no gain or no loss. Keeping it at 3% gives us a tremendous gain.

The amendment I wished to put forward and my private member's bill presently before the House at first reading say that after getting rid of the non-taxable grossing up, as the bill has done, the pension of members of Parliament should be eliminated in its entirety. Instead all members should be placed in the federal public superannuation program, the same as all other public servants.

That would provide a lot of benefits for MPs without it being a cost factor to Canadians. It would allow newly elected MPs who previously worked in government at either the federal, provincial or municipal level, crown corporations, the RCMP, the military and many private corporations that have transfer agreements with the federal program, to transfer their pension and carry on. It would also allow members who left this place and then worked for one of those areas to take their pension with them.

When we leave this place our pension is on hold until we turn 55. If someone ends up out of service in their early forties their pension is based on their salary. By the time they reach 55, it is possibly based on a salary from as much as 15 years before. It is better to carry the pension with them.

I do not know what I will do when it comes time to vote on the bill tonight because part of our policy and our principles is that MPs should not be voting on their pay. Notwithstanding the fact that the party's policy states that, I have a greater problem with the fact that voting on this bill places my colleagues and I in a clear conflict of interest.

I voted for the bill at second reading because I wanted to get it to committee of the whole stage where it could be amended. It has gone through that stage without any amendment. I did not vote on it at committee of the whole stage. I may very well not vote on it intentionally when it comes up for a vote tonight.

I say for the record so there is no misunderstanding that I do not intend to opt out of the pay. I earn what I earn in this place and I work as hard as other members. Any member who takes an arbitrary stand to turn it down is being foolish. He or she would be trying to make a point that I guarantee will be lost on the public.

Bill C-28 is a controversial bill. At least we will be able to put it to rest. Hopefully we are now balanced and never again will this type of legislation come to the House.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2001 / 4:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, on June 27, 1788, the Virginia ratifying convention proposed a series of amendments to the draft federal constitution then before that body. It was understood by all participants in the debate over whether to ratify the proposed new constitution of the United States that if Virginia did not sign on, the new constitution would be stillborn.

The Virginia delegates made it clear that their ratification was conditional upon the adoption of the larger portion of the 20 proposed changes to the body of the constitution they had set forth. These amendments dealt with freedom of speech, the independence of the judiciary, freedom of religion, the right to own property, and other key rights.

One of the amendments, which is relevant to today's debate read as follows. It resolved:

That the laws ascertaining the compensation to Senators and Representatives for their services be postponed in their operation, until after the election of Representatives immediately succeeding the passing thereof—

This proposed amendment was the intellectual origin and the genesis of the primary principle underlying my decision to vote against the legislation before us.

The list of proposed amendments was taken to the first session of the United States' congress by one of Virginia's greatest sons, James Madison. From it and similar lists forwarded by the ratifying conventions of the other states, Madison and his colleagues cobbled together a series of 12 amendments which, on September 25, 1789, were duly enacted by a two-thirds majority of each of the two houses of congress and sent to the states for ratification.

At this point the wording had been somewhat altered to read thus:

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

Unlike all but one of the other amendments approved that day, the amendment on congressional pay was not immediately adopted by a three-fourths majority of the 13 states. Perhaps this was because legislators in those days were modest in their salary demands and there was no need to place controls on their ability to set their own levels of compensation.

Times change. The willingness of elected representatives to compensate themselves generously grew to the point that by the 1980s a Texas legislative aide, Gregory Watson, felt compelled to take up the cause. He built a cross-country coalition that convinced the legislatures of 32 states to complete the ratification process. With the simultaneous ratification on May 7, 1992, of the Michigan and New Jersey state legislatures, Madison's proposal became the 27th amendment to the United States' constitution.

I have engaged in this long historical digression to make as pointed a contrast as possible between the right way of reforming parliamentary compensation and the mess that presents itself to us today.

Following the 2000 election, a commission, headed by former cabinet minister Ed Lumley, prepared a series of recommendations on MP salaries and compensation. Its report was made public last week. Some of its proposals strike me as excellent, particularly those which would moderate the accrual rate for the MP pension plan and which call for openness in reporting MPs' incomes.

I had not known until last week that my total compensation package under the existing byzantine structure of salary and tax free allowances added up to $109,000 per year.

Other aspects of the Lumley report, such as the proposal to tie MPs' salaries to those of judges, strikes me as less satisfactory. A linkage to private sector compensation would in my mind have been preferable.

However, the Lumley report is not the problem. It is an impartial public servant's attempt to come to a reasonable solution to the question of MP compensation. What has been distressing beyond all measure has been the government's reaction to the report.

In the past week we have seen the government fiddle with the accrual rate of the MP pension plan. According to Walter Robinson of the National Taxpayers Association, it has done so to goose up the size of payouts by as much as 42%, make the pay retroactive to a point far in advance of the date suggested by Mr. Lumley, and insert an odious and offensive opt out clause to allow it to tar any member who votes against the bill with the spurious charge of hypocrisy.

Each of these actions is an offence but the last one is so bad that I urge every member of the House, regardless of his or her intentions with regard to opting in or opting out, to vote against the entire bill on this basis alone.

The worst part of the government's reaction to the Lumley report has surely been its unseemly haste to ram the legislation through in record time.

So great was the government's haste that time allocation was imposed on the debate in the House. The committee of the whole that met yesterday had only a few hours to discuss the details of the bill. Each of us was permitted to raise questions only once, thereby preventing the kind of two way exchange that might have shed more light on important details of Bill C-28.

So great was the government's haste that its translation of the bill from English to French contained numerous mistakes which had to be corrected by amendments in committee.

So great was the government's haste that at committee stage it failed to group consequential amendments to the bill as is the normal practice.

Finally, the government's haste was so great that many members, myself included, were unable to flip through our sheaves of proposed amendments before the votes had been commenced on them. We therefore voted in complete ignorance or had to abstain from voting so as not to vote inappropriately.

All of this does the government a great discredit.

I will say for the record that there are many members in the House who deserve the increase on which we will be voting this afternoon. There are some for whom the services to their country that they are providing here, that they have provided here and that in many cases they will continue to provide here, far outweigh any level of compensation they will see.

For that reason I would never condemn a fellow member regardless of how he or she chooses to vote, whether he or she chooses to opt into the pension plan, the pay raise or the whole package, but I cannot and will not set aside any kind word for the process by which the raise is being rammed through. It is wrong and I will be voting against it.

I urge every fellow member of the House to do the same, regardless of party affiliation and regardless of his or her intentions with respect to the pay raise.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2001 / 4:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-28 at third reading because some things have to be put in perspective so that those who are listening can fully understand the problem this bill poses for parliamentarians, but also the need to behave in a courageous and appropriate manner under the circumstances.

First, it is not a coincidence that we are reviewing this bill now. It is not because we suddenly decided that it would be a good idea to proceed a week or two before the end of the session. Rather, it is because the act provides that after an election an independent committee of experts must be commissioned to review the issue of members' salaries. The committee has six months to do its job and table its report.

A few minutes ago a journalist asked me why we were doing it now and not waiting for the fall? I told him that whenever a report on members' salaries is tabled, the newspapers and media get hold of it and begin writing the most incredible headlines before any member has had an opportunity to express his or her opinion.

This generates confusion among the public and, without a single parliamentarian having said anything on the issue, people begin to think that members of parliament voted themselves a salary increase of x thousand dollars. We have a perfect example of that today with the Prime Minister's pension.

Being familiar with how pensions are calculated, I know personally that, on retirement—we all know that it will be in two years—the Prime Minister will not have a $175,000 pension because he would have to have paid premiums for five years on his maximum salary to be entitled to that amount.

I am sure that hundreds and thousands of people are convinced that what they read this morning on the front page of a major newspaper is the truth but it is not.

Each time such a report is tabled, reporters seek out all members of the House to ask their opinion “Do you think it is enough? Do you think it is too much? Will you accept the raise or not? Will you recommend that all members of your party vote the same way or will you have a free vote on this issue?” It is awful. It is always awful for parliamentarians to talk about compensation because it is truly unfair that we are forced to determine the level of compensation we think we deserve, or at least this is how people see it.

I do not know one person who is listening to us who is not outraged by the fact that I have to vote on my own salary. The people who are watching us are probably thinking “If I were voting my own pay increase, I would get a very nice one”.

That is not how things work. One has to understand that members—although obviously the government will be making the decision—have to vote for or against the implementation of an impartial report prepared by non-members of parliament who know about our duties and have expertise in that field. The commission was made of highly competent people who are above reproach and who have the ability to take a detached look at these issues.

The government has decided to follow up on this report, and I agree. Our party believes that the report validates the pay increases recommended in a report prepared four years ago. For all practical purposes, these two reports are the same, except for the pay increase, due probably to the four year delay.

What it means is that every time serious experts have looked at this issue objectively, they have always come up with almost the same suggestions. I truly believe that our pay level is reasonable. I do not know of anyone in my riding of Roberval who thinks it is not normal for the Prime Minister to earn at least as much as the chief justice of the supreme court.

We are not talking here about the income of the president of a bank like the National Bank, the smallest of our big banks, who earns millions of dollars a year. We are not talking $2 million here, but a salary of $200,000 for a man who has infinitely more responsibilities than the president of the National Bank or the Royal Bank. A salary of $250,000 or $260,000 for the Prime Minister is barely more than deputy ministers make in certain departments. Do the people of Canada want to see their Prime Minister earning half what a deputy minister does? It makes no sense.

Even if the way the Prime Minister is doing his job does not suit us completely, his salary ought to be comparable to that earned by the heads of major companies. When it comes down to it, does he not have greater responsibilities than anyone else?

The same goes for the ministers as well. No one that I know of in my riding of Roberval does not think ministers need to earn what their deputy ministers earn, or close to it, at least the equivalent of an assistant deputy minister. We should have given them more. Because politicians are always extremely reasonable in applying these principles, we say that we should consider that a minister ought to earn the same as a deputy minister. This is one of the rare areas in which a boss, with no job security, ends up earning a little less than the employee who reports to him. We accept this, so MPs' salaries were set accordingly. That is the outcome of the committee's work.

There is one point to which I would like to return. Debate leads to reflection. We have supported the government in all of the bill, essentially. However one clause is of particular concern to me. I met some informed individuals who provided viewpoints on the debate. I think intelligent people sometimes are the only ones to see things from a different angle. I think the provision on opting in that is in the bill, although it may be initially attractive to the troublemakers who would like to play tricks with the bill on salaries, should not be included.

Today, it was in fact pointed out to me—I was impressed by the argument—that I agree with the principle, in a strike vote at a company, that if 70% vote in favour and 30% vote against, they do not say to the 30% “You will return to work because you oppose the strike”. They say “The majority has decided and this system will apply”.

This is sort of the same thing. In an attempt to trick certain individuals, to prevent their rhetoric on the bill, I think the government went a bit too far with this clause.

I do not know whether the government House leader should not follow along on the route I have taken, which is, to think about the question and decide, in the end, that some colleagues can legitimately fight a bill. Either they find the increase excessive or they find the pension fund inappropriate.

They have the right to express their point of view but they should not be personally penalized for that. I consider a member of the House of Commons must be able to do his job without the threat that he will be denied certain benefits, which members deserve, I have no doubt, all and amply. It is a fair salary, as I said earlier.

In this regard, we supported the government, but I would like to encourage it today—there is still time—to think about the opting in clause. This may not be the discovery of the century. I think we would all be much happier to do our job were there no threat, no spirit of revenge in the bill.

This is the only change I would make to the position we have held since the start. We continue to support the bill but we would like to have the “opting in” clause—now before it is too late—taken out and withdrawn. I do not think it is a good idea.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2001 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have just a few comments on this because our position has already been made clear at second reading and at committee of the whole with respect to our opposition to the bill on the basis that we believe the 20% raise to be too high.

That is why we moved an amendment which would have had the effect of reducing the raise from 20% to 10%. It would still be generous when we consider what many other Canadians would be glad to receive in the way of a pay raise, but nevertheless something that we might have been able to justify given certain economic indicators.

The amendment was defeated yesterday, so we will proceed to vote against Bill C-28 at third reading. Then we will proceed as a caucus to all opt in to the legislation because we do not believe we should either be punished or accept punishment for being honest about our feelings on the pay package, and the fact that the raise is too high, especially when we consider there are elements of the bill which we support in terms of increasing transparency, and also in terms of creating a mechanism whereby members of parliament would not have to set their own salaries again.

I listened with care to what the Leader of the Opposition said. Perhaps I could just use my time to respond to some of the things he and the Alliance Party have said in the last few days.

I have had experience with the Alliance Party, and before that the Reform Party, when it comes to these matters. It is very good at allowing certain things to happen and even in the past negotiating certain agreements. Then after having negotiated those agreements, pretending to be against them.

It happened in the last parliament when I was privy to negotiations among the official opposition House leader and other House leaders with respect to the legislation that made it possible for many Reform members to opt back in to the pension legislation. Having negotiated that, I was very surprised to find out that when the bill came to the floor of the House of Commons the very people I had negotiated this with were denouncing it and voting against it. That is bargaining in bad faith. If people are going to negotiate something, they should at least have the guts to vote for it.

This is not a similar situation in the sense that it was not negotiated, but I have heard the Alliance members say in recent days that this is being fast tracked through parliament and they did not want to see this happen now. I would submit that there is also a certain intellectual political disingenuousness involved here too.

I have defended this process because I have said that this process is much better than any other process we have ever had with respect to implementing improvements or changes in our compensation package. Therefore, I do not go around slamming the government for this particular process. The Alliance has been doing this. The fact remains that this happened pursuant to a House order which the Alliance Party had the 25 members to stop it. This would not be happening if 25 members out of an Alliance caucus of 66 or whatever it was had been in the House to stop it.

I would ask the Alliance Party to give us a break and stop pretending that this is somehow happening against its will. This happened because there were not 25 members of the House of Commons standing. The Alliance is one of the parties that had the numbers to stop it. Having not stopped it, spare us the theatrics of complaining that this is happening in the way it is.

With respect to opting out and opting in, the Leader of the Opposition said that this is a terrible thing. We know where it has its origins. It has its origins in the former Reform Party demanding that it be allowed to opt out of the pension plan.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2001 / 3:40 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your indulgence. I will wrap up at this point.

The suggestion that people who oppose the legislation should not have to or should not be expected to live within it is inappropriate. It is a great and sad irony that those who oppose this type of legislation in order to protect taxpayers are sometimes pointed at as being the villains of this type of legislation.

I would also say that it is certainly a matter of principle in our caucus that whatever an individual MP decides to do following the bill, whether he or she votes for it or against it, takes or does not take some of it, be it Liberal, Alliance or whatever, there will be no personal recriminations from one MP to another as far as we are concerned. Those will be private matters.

I will close by saying that Bill C-28 should be opposed and denounced. We call on the government to table new legislation that respects the recommendations of the Lumley commission, the prohibition against politicians setting their own salaries and the fundamental principle in a democracy that if two people do the same job for the same employer they should get the same money.

I have an amendment to Bill C-28. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefor:

Bill C-28, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act and the Salaries Act be not now read a third time, but be referred back to Committee of the Whole for the purposes of reconsidering clause 29 to study its impact on the prime minister's pension taking into account the recommendation from the Lumley Commission that the changes to members' compensation `not result in any material impact, either positive or negative, to the benefits that parliamentarians receive from the pension plan'.”

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2001 / 3:30 p.m.
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Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian AllianceLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I rise reluctantly to participate in the debate today on Bill C-28, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act and the Salaries Act. I say reluctantly because I believe there are many other things that we should be dealing with today and in the days left in this session that are more important to Canadians than this issue.

Ostensibly the bill is meant to implement the recommendations that were made by the Lumley commission, which was an independent commission led by former cabinet minister Ed Lumley and charged with setting MPs salaries, benefits and pensions. Very few will actually dispute the need to review the salaries of MPs. I do not dispute that. We do not dispute that.

We were actually in a bizarre situation where MPs got a basic salary of $68,000, plus a tax free expense allowance of something around $40,000, plus additional living allowances, with the result that when asked the basic question of how much an MP made the answer was not a simple one.

There is pretty much unanimous consent out there that people should be able to know how much politicians make. That is basic. If we are to be truly accountable to our electorate, part of that accountability involves being transparent where taxpayers dollars are being spent.

Transparency is not something for which the present Liberal government is known. The very idea that the salaries of MPs should be transparent and comparable with private sector standards is actually one which is deeply held by most Canadians and by most members of the Canadian Alliance. It should come as no surprise that the first line of article 70 of the Canadian Alliance declaration of policy reads:

Parliamentary compensation will be recommended by an independent commission according to private sector standards.

It is something we believe in and that our grassroots members across the country have endorsed. On the face of it Bill C-28 is straight out of Canadian Alliance policy. The Lumley commission was an independent commission. Its recommendations certainly go in the direction of basing parliamentary compensation on private sector standards.

The bill uses the salary of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada as its reference point and that the salaries of MPs should be a percentage of that. We could argue about whether or not that amount is appropriate. Indeed it was actually argued by the government House leader on Wednesday that it was appropriate the Prime Minister make the same salary as the chief justice.

That may or may not be a point agreed upon by all Canadians, but the fact is that it was out there and a reference point was sought. The only possible concern is that the chief justice's salary is determined by the judicial compensation commission whose recommendations must be passed by parliament. In a somewhat oblique fashion the Liberals have ensured, if they wanted to, a stealthy way of continuing to give MPs regular increases. This is the spend portion of the tax and spend policies which constitute the ongoing Liberal assault on the beleaguered Canadian taxpayer.

The Lumley commission did a great service in getting rid of the tax free expense allowances as we had recommended. This was appropriate. Just as people cannot understand why the federal Liberals do not feel that the cost of a mechanic's tools should be partially deductible if needed for his or her employment, and that is something we endorse as the Canadian Alliance, most taxpayers could not understand how our food, clothing, drycleaning and taxis would come out of a taxpayer funded non-taxable expense allowance. By making this amount taxable the Lumley commission has ended the secrecy and put politicians on a similar footing with other Canadians. We endorse that.

The commission also recognized the need to make the MP pension plan comparable with public and private sector norms, especially given that salaries are being raised to private sector levels. It suggested that the MP pension should be equal to 2.5% of an MP salary multiplied by the number of years served. It should be noted that this is actually higher than the 2% rate per year of service which public servants actually get from a plan that is administered through the Treasury Board.

Sadly, even the independent commission's recommended above average rate was not enough for the federal Liberals who jacked that rate up to 3%. Now we give them half a point out of ten for lowering it, but it is still not where it would be if and when the Canadian Alliance government has the opportunity to do that after the next election.

While it seems that our pay has been recommended by an independent commission, the reality is that the Liberals have actually used the Lumley commission's recommendation to jack up and justify their own pay raises. They have exceeded the pension amounts and retained the ability to continue to give themselves pay increases by linking their salaries to the base amount, the salary of the chief justice, and then actually being the ones who have the ability to control that. Like most things the Liberals do, it is too clever by half.

I will be voting against the bill for the principal reason that I do not think I should set my own salary. It is as simple as that.

The second sentence of article 70 of the Canadian Alliance declaration of policy specifically states “The decision of parliament will be implemented after a subsequent election”. That is a point of principle of our own policy declaration.

We always believed that we should run any salary increase by the voters first. We should not get elected and then vote ourselves a huge salary increase. We are not talking about the legitimacy of the current salary, but about the principle. Voters should know before the election what salary we will be getting throughout our mandate. This is why the Canadian Alliance proposed amendments whereby this increase would take effect only after the next election.

It just makes sense. On the CBC news last night there was an interview with a fellow at a racetrack who just could not figure out how MPs could vote themselves a pay increase. He said that the increase should be for the next guy. That encapsulates the spirit of our policy. Like most Canadians, the person being interviewed did not think MPs should set their own salaries.

I will be voting against the bill and encouraging others to do the same. If we defeat the bill, the Liberals could bring back an amended bill that would contain many of the same positive recommendations of the Lumley commission and would add a clause stating that the increase would only take effect after the next election. They would also ensure that the base amount would not be linked to any salary that parliament may control.

I appeal to the federal Liberal MPs to defeat the bill. It would send a message to taxpayers across the country that they and not us are the ones who should set our salaries. I would encourage our federal Liberal MPs to agree with us on this. It is Canadian tax dollars and they should be the ones determining what is fair compensation.

The bill has some other nasty features. Section 54.1 makes the increase retroactive to January 1. In my view that is totally unconscionable. There is no way on earth we should be voting ourselves a windfall, especially when taxes are so high for the rest of our citizens. That is absolutely unacceptable in my view. The government gave no hint during the last election that it would be doing such a thing.

The other objectionable clause in the bill is the one which requires an MP to opt in to benefit from the pay increase. This is one of the most troubling concepts that we have seen in any type of legislation. It puts MPs in a situation whereby two MPs from the same party or from across the floor who do the same job, or maybe work harder, as some would suggest opposition members do, but I will not necessarily claim that, would earn two different salaries. That is in direct violation of the spirit of equality in our charter of rights and freedoms and is 100% opposed to the spirit of the October 19, 1999 federal court decision on pay equity. It is totally inappropriate for that particular clause to be there.

It also requires an MP to opt in in order to make his or her salary transparent to taxpayers. We believe that should be happening but that we should not have to opt in to do that. It should be part of the legislation that we are getting rid of the tax free expense allowance, which some people find so troubling.

Finally, the bill says that the opt in or opt out clause, whichever we want to call it, is irrevocable. This is astonishing. If MPs opt out in order to defray their increases until after the next election, to follow our own policy, it would mean that as long as they continue to be elected they would forever be operating at a different level of compensation than other MPs.

It is absolutely unconscionable that such a clause should be in the bill. It is probably unconstitutional. It is definitely against the spirit of equality and surely against democracy itself.

It is interesting to note that at the Quebec summit in April the government was calling on a democracy clause to be inserted into the text for the free trade area of the Americas. The government was of the view that the emerging democracies of the world would learn from us. We can be honoured to say that many times they do look to us.

I recently met with President Fox of Mexico. I can say that the type of democracy being proposed by the federal Liberal government in this bill is not something I believe that Mr. Fox's government would follow. I suspect he will be looking for another role model and that is unfortunate.

There is also a suggestion being made that if members vote against the bill it would be inappropriate for them to live with the effects of the bill. I find that a specious argument. I would make note of the fact that many times MPs on either side of the House vote against legislation which then becomes law and they then have to live with it whether they like it or not.

The government proposed certain tax measures only hours before the last election. We opposed those particular measures because we did not think they were good tax measures. We are living with the tax decreases that were passed on and nobody is suggesting that is inappropriate.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2001 / 3:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

No, it was an opt in. The hon. member says that it was an opt out but that is not correct, I am sorry to say. If members review their records they will see that it was an opt in. All members were deemed to have opted out and had to sign up to be opted in. I am quite sure of that.

A second opting in bill was passed shortly before the last election to allow members to buy back a second time. That was an opt in. Again, each member had the choice of doing it. That was the second one and there are a number of others.

In conclusion, Bill C-28 implements the report of the independent Lumley Commission.

I congratulate the hon. Ed Lumley, the hon. Jake Epp, and Dr. Huguette Labelle on their work.

It is easy for all of us to claim that we are opposed to this bill. I am asking all members to think about what is right for themselves, for their family and for the work they are called upon to perform as parliamentarians in the highest court in the land, the Parliament of Canada.

Again, I ask them to support this bill. It is a good bill. It is well drafted and it deserves the support of us all, not just for ourselves, but for the institution in which we sit as parliamentarians.

I hope that the leader of the opposition and all members of the House will decide later today to support the bill or at least to opt back in when the opportunity arises.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2001 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved that Bill C-28, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act and the Salaries Act, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak this afternoon on the third reading of Bill C-28, the parliamentary compensation legislation.

As I indicated in this House on Tuesday, Bill C-28 is straightforward. It simply implements the report of the independent Lumley Commission, a commission created by order in council last January. The Lumley Commission submitted a report in accordance with the Parliament of Canada Act. We approved this report and we are simply trying to implement it.

The Lumley Commission stated that:

A good day's work deserves a fair wage, and there is no reason that this should not apply to those who commit to public service.

The Lumley Commission recommendations, which are reflected in Bill C-28, are in my view fair. And I am very pleased with the broad support for the Lumley report.

The House leader for the official opposition supported key elements of the Lumley report when he said that his party had called for “an independent commission to make recommendations regarding MPs' salaries” in the future and that such recommendations “be done by the people who look at the judges' salaries, which is independent”. He further stated that his party had “promoted the concept that MPs' pensions should be more in line with the private sector”.

The NDP House leader said “the process we have embarked on today is much superior to ones I have experienced in the past”.

He further stated:

What we have here, with notice being given on a Friday, the bill introduced on a Monday, second reading debate on Tuesday, committee of the whole on Wednesday and third reading and final vote on Thursday...does give Canadians time to get in touch with their MPs and give them their opinions before dealing with a fait accompli.

Those are the words of the House leader for the New Democratic Party.

On Tuesday, the member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans said, and I quote:

We in the Bloc Quebecois are of the opinion that Mr. Lumley and the other two members of his committee have carried out a serious, detailed and well researched study of the situation.

So, several representatives of the political parties in the House have commented favourably on this report.

The subject of parliamentary pensions has been noted by members of the House during consideration of Bill C-28. The Leader of the Official Opposition raised it today during question period. He of course now knows, on verification, that the numbers he quoted from the newspaper were factually incorrect, grossly exaggerated and completely off base. I am sure the hon. member knows not to refer to things that are improperly researched. They are bound to get people in trouble. He knows something about that.

I would emphasize that Bill C-28 would implement the Lumley commission's recommendation that pension provisions be adjusted to limit the cost of compensation increases. According to Bill C-28, the accrual rate would be reduced by 25%, from 4% to 3%. The reduction would result in a saving of $400,000 annually for the Canadian taxpayer, and we all know why. There are two reasons. First, the accrual rate would decrease. Second, the premiums would be paid on a larger amount.

For the average MP, the premiums would be approximately $3,000 a year more. Because people like myself and the leader of the opposition get larger salaries, we would pay even more. The leader of the opposition and myself, and I say that because our salaries are identical and much higher than those of the average MP, would pay approximately $4,000 a year more than we pay now in premiums on the pension plan.

It is interesting to note that in a Toronto Star article today an evaluation was done on MP pensions, even the one paid to the Prime Minister. They were deemed not to be overly generous given the size of the premiums.

Higher compensation levels would of course result in an increase in pension benefits but those benefits would be fully paid for by members themselves through their contributions to the parliamentary pension plan as I have just described.

During the second reading debate on Tuesday, members of parliament rose to speak about the need for fair compensation for their demanding workload. Members recognized the Lumley commission's research in comparing parliamentary compensation with other professions.

It has been clear this week that almost all members, certainly the vast majority, agree that Bill C-28 would: first, strike an appropriate balance in determining a fair level of compensation; second, reinforce our ability to attract the best and brightest to public life; and third, strengthen accountability to taxpayers on the issue of parliamentary compensation, the judges commission, which will now rule, and so on.

I would remind those who have spoken against implementing the Lumley recommendations that compensation for MPs rose 6% between 1991 and 2000. Public sector increases have amounted to 15%, private sector increases have amounted to 22% and the conference board survey puts executives at 31%. Of course 31% is not even sought in the bill.

A comparison with judges, and I described it yesterday during report stage debate, shows that a member of parliament even with this increase would not be paid nearly what federal court judges were paid 30 years ago.

A survey comparing the salaries of legislators in 12 countries ranked Canadian legislators ninth behind those of G-7 nations such as the United States, Britain, Japan, Germany, France and others.

Experts on compensation in the private sector have commented on parliamentary remuneration and the Lumley commission's recommendations.

Here is what the media had to say about the Lumley report. The Globe and Mail on May 30 stated:

We would do well to consider this as citizens in pursuit of good government...What job is comparable to being one of a few hundred legislators mastering difficult, complex subjects and passing laws that affect every Canadian's life? La Presse noted on May 31 that a good MP more than earns his salary, particularly when his workload and what he is paid are compared to equivalent jobs in the labour market.

I will take a minute to talk about the opting in provisions. A number of members yesterday commented about the opting in provisions. Under Bill C-28, parliamentarians would be given the right to decide whether the Lumley commission report should apply to themselves. I would say to all members that they are being given a choice and are free to do what they think.

I will say once again, if I can be so bold, that I advise all members to vote for the bill. Should they not vote for the bill they should opt in to the program anyway. I would ask all members to do this because they are all deserving of the salary that members of parliament are paid.

Opting in provisions have been used many times in the past. Some members alleged yesterday that it was unprecedented. However they were sought by members of the House only a few years ago regarding the pension program.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

June 6th, 2001 / 6:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

moved:

That Bill C-28, in Clause 31, be amended by replacing lines 31 to 33 on page 26 with the following:

“force on the first day of the 38th Parliament.”